After taking the TEFL training course, I will forever have a much greater respect for teachers everywhere. Teaching students to speak English as a foreign language may sound easy, but there are many factors that impact the excellence of a TEFL teacher and the overall engagement of their students.
The practice teaching component of the TEFL training course was in my opinion, the most interesting. I learned that I love to perform and entertain as a teacher. I depend primarily on the use of visual materials such as magazine images, the use of drawings and graphics on the white board in various colors. My final lesson was with a group of beginner level students, in which I implemented fruit and candy to teach the words “fruit”, “candy”, “sweet”, and “delicious”. I was able to get the student’s attention when I pulled fruit and candy from my pockets and lobbed them across the classroom. Incorporating colorful, three-dimensional props help students relate to and interact with the lesson. Teachers who deviate from the book in creative ways gain instant respect from their students, if lessons are entertaining and relevant to their culture and interests.
Another great tool that was used in the lesson above was cognate words. Creating lesson plans around cognates allows for seamless translation from L1 to L2. Students gain confidence by recognizing the word first in their native language and then being able to easily read it in L2. My level 1 students were able to learn fruit, candy, sweet and delicious in a matter of minutes, as the words in Spanish are almost identical.
I also learned the value of introducing interesting and sophisticated words to the class. This keeps students enlightened and makes the lesson meaningful for every day use. The objective of every class should be to get students excited about speaking English and to give them useful words and phrases to feel confident communicating with others. Considering this, it is equally as important to know your student’s comprehension level and abilities. We want to introduce words that are stimulating and challenging but not at the expense of confusion and frustration. Know what is appropriate for the class level and what is relevant to their needs.
Another way to build self-confidence in students is to have them actively participate in a lesson. I try to incorporate some type of physical movement in each class whether is be students standing up to read a composition or simply walking up to the board to help with a written exercise. Every opportunity students get to practice English dialogue with their peers will be helpful to their development.
One of the greatest challenges I encountered in classroom management was navigating the pace of a class with various learning speeds. With practice and observation, I learned how to give broad instructions to the class and then dividing my attention evenly between individual students making sure no one was left behind. It is important to ensure that faster learners are being challenged and slower learners are not frustrated. Allowing the fast learners to help their slower peers is one method of keeping the class spirit positive while maintaining forward momentum.